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Article posted: 3/26/2013 5:30 AM

W. Dundee candidates weigh in on theater concept

By Lenore T. Adkins

The people running for office in West Dundee have varying views on whether the village should let a proposal to convert a downtown hardware store into a regional performing arts center come to fruition.

Rick Browne, a local architect, is in the midst of raising nearly $2 million to turn the old Ace Hardware store into the Fox Performing Arts Center, a state-of-the-art theater that would seat 235 and, hopefully, infuse the downtown with new life. West Dundee originally wanted to tear it down and put up a parking lot, but Browne persuaded village officials to hold off on that plan. Part of the plan involves a $150,000 contribution that West Dundee would make toward the building's renovations.

Christopher Nelson, who is running for village president, sees the performing arts center as a way to achieve his overall goal of getting people to stop and shop in the downtown, thus raising the sales tax revenue. Securing restaurants to complement the neighborhood, creating and executing an economic development plan and connecting with residents to see what they'd like, would also be part of the process, Nelson said.

"I'd like to see if we could resurrect it and make it happen," Nelson said.

Trustee Andrew Yuscka, who has been on the board for 14 years and is now running for village president, said he's willing to give Browne a chance to realize his dream.

"I think it would be a great asset to our community, and I think it would be well received and well suited," Yuscka said. "We're not in any hurry to tear the building down at this point."

The trustee candidates -- Trustee Patrick Hanley and challengers Daniel Wilbrandt, William Pflanz and Darren Parochelli, who are vying for three trustee seats -- are skeptical about the plan's viability.

Both Hanley and Pflanz pointed to an in-house survey that showed none of the theaters studied in six other towns turned a profit. The survey also concluded that all of the facilities except the Steel Beam in St. Charles received a "significant public subsidy."

"West Dundee compared to Elgin and the events it gets and still not being able to maintain any sort of profit margin, makes me believe it will be unlikely to succeed without significant financial assistance from the village," Pflanz said.

Hanley doesn't want West Dundee taxpayers on the hook to finance the theater.

"It would cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep something like that and (Browne and his supporters) can say that they're going to be self-sustaining, but all the evidence that we had collected, states otherwise," Hanley said.

Parochelli and Wilbrandt support the concept but say now is not the right time to pursue it.

"As far as West Dundee dropping $150,000, I think that is risky," Wilbrandt said.

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